Sumita P Minhas, Principal, Podar World School, Jaipur

Sumita P Minhas has been an educationist for the past 18 years and it is her 10th year in educational leadership. Prior to becoming principal, she worked as Vice Principal, Coordinator & PGT. Sumita did her schooling from Kendriya Vidhyalaya’s of different cities, Graduation from Guru Nanak Dev university, Amritsar & Post graduation from Rajasthan University. She continues with her learning experience through various workshops and courses. By perusing lifelong learning, Sumita intends to be an example to students and teachers. She has received award for “Inspiring Educators of Rajasthan” in 2019 and “Exemplary Eduleader Amidst Covid Crisis Award” in August 2021.

 

A famous saying goes, “It is easier to build stronger children than to repair broken men.” This cannot be more profound for an educator like me.

Stronger children can be crafted very easily by educators in a ‘brick & mortar’ setting i.e., school where a student gets an inclusive & supportive environment. But this new normal of extended lockdowns has affected students’ mental health and their emotional wellbeing. The bridge between a student’s intellectuality and interest is also locked by this unpredictable lockdown. Survey reports suggest that the key to unlock this bridge, and to replace an empty mind with an open & thoughtful one is –Curriculum with Extracurricular Activities [ECA].

As per an article published in Fronteirs.in, participation in extra-curricular activities has been found to associate with increased well-being. The article discussed a survey that was conducted among university level students and found that the activities students rated as most helpful to their well-being were somewhat different, with outdoor exercise rated highest, and followed by socializing virtually and listening to music. While all activities were rated as beneficial by the student but those with a social component were given higher ratings. This suggests that having a variety of proactive interventions by educators can help in skill development as well ensuring overall wellbeing of students.

Education breeds success, while Extracurricular Activities breeds confidence & confidence turns mirrors to windows.

Participation in extracurricular activities helps children to improve their communication & crisis management skills. Outside the standard framework of any educational curriculum, there are endless opportunities for students to learn new skills and ignite new passions. Extracurricular activities are a vital element in any child’s development, often building on lessons and learning’s that begins during school hours. Creativity is a key asset for further education and beyond. Those involved in arts club like music, drama or visual arts tend to be more creative thinkers and capable of approaching problems from a different standpoint.

Children have to be educated but they should be left also to educate themselves.

Schools must ensure their ECA planning is incorporated into their strategic plan, it should not be sidelined. Educators do not need a global pandemic to recognize the importance of ECA however the pandemic has given them a fresh awareness. Decades of research have noted the positive association between ECA & desirable academic, social and developmental outcomes. During the pandemic a specific research has been carried out that develops a link between extracurricular participation and better academic performance.

The key to fruitful educational experience is when students can strike a perfect balance between their curricular & co curricular act. This balance can easily be maintained by a wise selection of one’s interest among all the other irrelevant activities. Prioritization of activities may help. The schools should also set a proper schedule to ensure the smooth virtual functioning. These activities help a child gain an edge above other students. 

Blending academics with the ECA can be achieved by introducing vocational activities such as pottery, agriculture & framing, stitching & knitting, mehndi & nail art, culinary art, carpentry etc. Apart from it different clubs can be instituted such as Oratory, Social Service, Dramatics, Music& Dance, and Environment etc. Students should have the liberty to choose the vocational activities/ clubs as per their own interest. It provides a platform to the students to hone & showcase their varied talents, share their views, thoughts & ideas on the topics of common interests. These ECA helps to provide an opportunity of hands-on experience to the students as well as to develop leadership qualities, personal integrity etc. Hence, making time for their passion will help them learn time management. During pandemic a   lot of the skills that lie at the heart of extracurricular activities can be used during core academic subjects. This type of education requires solid problem-solving skills, memory, creativity, and critical thinking.

Covid-19 has presented many challenges in front of us- anxiety, uncertainty and sense of despair. For parents and for children, their daily lives are too intertwined. There is no clear distinction of professional and personal space in many cases. Being confined to home means that young people, who are used to school activities have to now find a ‘new normal’ for themselves. While this is a tricky situation, it is also an opportunity to reinvent schooling as whole. Covid-19 can become a catalyst for change educators need to put in their genuine efforts to make this change a favorable one for the students. The show must go on with academics & activities like speech, debate, dramatics, recorded plays, short films table readings over video calls etc. This new normal scenario has brought lot of learning curves and huge challenges. The fact is, that we don’t grow when things are easy, we grow when we face challenges. 

Challenges are what make life interesting. Overcoming them is what makes them meaningful!

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